Chapter One: De Profúndis Clamávi ad te, Dómine
Hiram Palse awoke to find a dead man staring at him from the end of his bed. Stuck for a moment between sleep and the waking world, Hiram thought it was a dream at first. That was until the dead man reached for his foot. Seeing the sudden movement from the creature startled him from his sleep and propelled him awake. He scrambled upright, tearing his foot away from the man's grasp.
For a moment the man seemed confused. Had there not been a delicious and fresh foot in front of him just a moment ago? Where had it gone? Unblinking, he swayed for a few seconds in the way the dead are known to do. Hiram tried to stay calm, as calm as one can be when a dead man is trying to make you a snack that is.
Finally setting both eyes on Hiram, the dead man moved toward him again. He was not a large man by far, but built heavy. Half of his face had disappeared, revealing the bleach white bone beneath. He had been dead long enough for both eyes to have gone milky white, and his skin to have dried to a wrinkled husk. He must have been walking for a very long time.
Panic began to take him, building from his guts and slowly climbing to his brain. "I am going to die." his brain screamed at him. Hiram did not want to die...he had not even had a lady to court yet! His fists bunched up the sheets about him, his fear shaking his very bones. The dead man continued to stare at him, moving slowly as he shuffled around the bed and closer to poor panicked Hiram.
"Knock them over and run." Suddenly the training he had endured as a child struck him. It was the only thing he could remember but it would have to do. Feeling stupid for not remembering something a child would instinctively do, he steeled himself for the contact. Willing his shaking limbs to follow his commands just long enough to keep them attached, he reached out to the dead man. He took Hiram's hand, dry and tough fingertips brushing over his skin for a brief second. Settling his hands against the dead man's still chest, He pushed as hard as he could. For a moment it seemed that nothing was going to happen, when the the dead man's chest fell away from his hand.
Everything that had slowed down before sped up and rushed into his ears. With a shallow moan the dead man fell over onto his back. Taking his moment of chance, Hiram vaulted over the end of his bed and rounded on the door as fast as he could. Without a glance behind him he threw open the door and walked right into the face of another walking corpse.
Trapped, literally between a rock and a dead face, Hiram backed up into his small room slowly. There wasn't very far for him to go as seconds later he was pressed against the rock wall the metaphor was talking about. As best as he could, he tried to squeeze himself amongst the pipes that lined the entire room. Sharing your room with the boiler and its equipment was good for something he mused. Maneuvering amongst some of the pipes, he managed to get far enough away from the pawing hands of both dead men. They could not seem to get their hands through the maze of copper and tin, though they tried as hard as they could. With a sickening crunch, one of the men's fingers snapped completely backwards as he tried to jam it into a small break in the pipes to reach him.
Trying not to gag at the sight of the finger, Hiram took the moment of relative safety to look at his new roommates. As before, the man with half a face leered at him almost lazily. For some reason the dead seemed to always have a sort of bored expression, as if this whole life thing is over rated and they are in need of some good and wholesome entertainment. Somewhere along the way this had translated to feasting on those inflicted with the curse of life. Taking in his newest comrade, Hiram winced as the full effect of the man's damages became apparent.
Somewhere, The Great Father only knew how, the man had lost his lower jaw. His tongue flapped noisily against his chest, wet and slimy with blood. A sudden and horrifying thought dawned on Hiram. Fresh blood. It was still bright red, and it could not have been this mans. Dead people do not secrete the juices needed for such a fresh looking appendage.
Once death has taken hold, you lose everything. From your blood down to the saliva that coats your mouth. All of it leaves in time. Luckily for Hiram, both of the eyes on the second corpse had long been eaten, or rotted away. Perhaps that is why the creature had not grabbed him the moment he had crashed into it in the doorway. Though they are still pretty perceptive about the world around them, sometimes when they have lost eyes or ears it takes them a few moments to react. A fact that had very well saved his life.
Now, Hiram tried to figure out where the fresh blood coating the dead man's snaking tongue had come from. Bright red and still runny, it had to be relatively fresh. Sadly, that meant some poor sod had been chewed on and was probably in the early stages of reanimation.
He got his answer moments later. From between the pipes and over the heads of the other two, the face of a third, and this time recognizable corpse appeared. It had once belonged to his neighbor, and sometimes partner in the fields, Jacob. Of course then it had been a little less bloody and more...face like. Now, eyes wide, one shot red with blood from a burst capillary during death, he stared into the room before staggering farther down the hallway. Assured that now everyone in the complex was in trouble, Hiram screamed.